The Car-nasty Challenge
We take a closer look at Carnoustie, the course that will host the Ricoh Women’s British Open for the first time this week.
Carnoustie is a bit special.
The 11-time major winner Walter Hagen described it as, “the greatest course in the British Isles and one of three greatest in the world.”
Not everyone has been quite so overwhelmed (indeed, some call it Car-nasty), but very few golfers are left disappointed from playing it and when it hosts tournaments it has a habit of witnessing classics.
Ben Hogan famously won his only Claret Jug there in 1953, Gary Player his second in 1968 and Tom Watson his first in 1975.
In more recent times the course has witnessed two remarkable Open Championship finishes. In 1999 Jean Van de Velde had his famous 72nd hole meltdown which allowed local lad Paul Lawrie to step in and claim the title.
Then, four years ago, the brutal 18th hole tore the leaders apart again. Padraig Harrington made a double-bogey six and Sergio Garcia a bogey five before the Irishman won the four-hole play-off that followed.
Two hazards stand out at Carnoustie. The first is the out of bounds fence which often sits uncomfortably close to the fairway (often on the left-hand side) and nowhere is this more obvious than on the par-five sixth hole, renamed Hogan’s Alley in honour of the great man’s habit of apparently (there is some historical dispute of the facts) hitting the small patch of fairway between the fairway bunkers and OOB fence.
The second threat is the unusual (for a links course) number of water hazards. They take the form of burns which sneak around the fairways and greens. Most famous of all of them is the Barry Burn which protects the front of the tenth green in addition to offering a risk to the drives from the 17th and 18th tees. It also guards the front of the final green, as Van de Velde discovered to his cost.
It’s a remarkable venue and will this year host the Ricoh Women’s British Open for the first time. Player and caddie reactions have been universally positive in practice and, weather permitting, the course seems ready to host another classic.
This week sees the start of a mini-Celtic Swing on the Ladies European Tour. After Carnoustie, the tour travels to Killeen Castle for the Ladies Irish Open supported by Failte Ireland, before returning to Scotland for the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open, at Archerfield GC in North Berwick (18-20th August).
Scottish players Catriona Matthew, Lynn Kenny and Carly Booth are ambassadors for the 2011 Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open and Golf365 sought their local knowledge about this week’s course.
The Carnoustie Challenge – by Lynn Kenny
“The key issues will be the weather and the set-up – if the weather is dry and the fairways tight then ball-striking will really matter. If there is a bit of rain hitting the fairways will prove a little easier.
“Of course it’s a classic seaside links test so all those big links factors come into play – if it is windy the field will need to be punching low shots and shaping the ball into or against the wind.
“Never overlook the importance of finding the right spots on the greens either and, if players do miss them putting surfaces inventiveness in escaping with par will be essential.
“One thing that stands out about Carnoustie is that the final four or five holes are very tough and that could have a huge impact on scorecards. Put simply, what happens in those final holes could make or break a round. The players will need really need to maintain concentration and stay patient right till the final putt drops.”
The closing holes – by Carly Booth
“The 17th will play as a 433 yard par-five and the fact we are playing it as a par-five makes a huge difference! Ninety-nine percent of the time you play this hole into wind, so it is usually a 3- or 5-wood lay-up off tee due to the Barry Burn (which crosses the fairway twice, almost creating an “island”). Then it’s another 5-wood to the green. I think it’s a great hole, a great test!
“The 18th is famous for the Barry Burn in front of the green and if you don’t hit a good tee shot, you may be left with no option but to lay up short of it! It is playing 386 yards this week which makes it a little easier than if it was set up as a long par-four. Off the tee, the bunker on right side of fairway comes in play and you have out of bounds on the left! A great finishing hole!”
Will it be the toughest Ricoh Women’s British Open ever? – by 2009 champion Catriona Matthew
“Obviously it is going to be a difficult course. Royal Lytham & St Anns (where Matthew won her British Open) is a tough course with all of the bunkers and if the wind blows. But to say that Carnoustie is going to be the hardest ever … well, I think we need to wait and see what the weather is going to be like more than anything. It will certainly be one of the hardest.”
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